For all Tanzania diving destinations, the international gateway is the airport of Dar es Salaam (DAR). Mombasa or Nairobi, situated in Kenya, are other close-by options that have great international connections with daily flights to Zanzibar. Water temperatures are comfortable, and since these dive sites are so close to the equator, their temperature stays around 26 to 28 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Visibility ranges from good and excellent between 20 and 30 meters. The best time to dive Tanzania islands is from October to March, since rainy season runs from April to September.
Located 75 kilometers from the Tanzanian coast, Zanzibar speaks to many travelers’ imagination. Together with Pemba and other smaller islands, it makes up the Zanzibar Archipelago. From the bustling cobblestone streets of Stone Town to the swaying palm trees of the beaches, Zanzibar, nicknamed Spice Island, is a colorful mix of tropical island, rich history and culture. Diving in Zanzibar is as vibrant as the island itself with rich coral reefs and a healthy population of marine life. Most Zanzibar dive sites are located around the north of the island. On the northeast side of Zanzibar lies Mnemba, a small atoll with amazing dive sites that feels like an aquarium.
Pemba island is a little more untouched by tourism than its sister island Zanzibar. The roads are terrible; ox-carts are still widely used; clove plantations are spread out over the island; and the diving is spectacular. While Pemba diving has something to offer every level diver, most dive sites are wall and drift dives, and require some experience or advanced certification.
Mafia Island is part of a group of islands that make up the Mafia Archipelago. The waters surrounding these islands have been protected for over 15 years, as Tanzania’s first marine park, and it shows. With over 400 species of fish and 48 types of coral, Mafia Island diving is some of the best Tanzania has to offer in terms of marine biodiversity.
Most Zanzibar dive sites are around the north end of the island. Mwangana is a unique dive site covered in Plate Coral and home to lobster, moray eels, lionfish, and blue-striped snappers, and is suitable for beginner and experienced divers. Another Zanzibar dive site for all levels and excellent for night dives is Kichafi. This site has a collection of hard corals and attracts reef fish like wrasse and snapper, even the occasional stingray.
For experienced divers only, the thrilling dive site Leven Bank, situated in the Pemba channel, often has strong currents. Large pelagic species can be seen there, including Tuna, Barracuda, Trevally and Kingfish.
Located on the northeast side of Zanzibar, Mnemba is Zanzibar’s finest dive location. This small atoll feels like an aquarium, and is often referred to as the tropical fish capital of East Africa. Watabomi, a calm Mnemba dive site that is littered with brain coral, is home to a variety of reef fish, like the blue surgeonfish, peppered moray eels, and turtles. A must for the experienced diver, The Big Wall is a dive site that is located on Mnemba’s east side. Located at the beginning of the Pemba Channel, this world-class Mnemba dive site has steep walls and is regularly visited by large marine life like reef sharks, rays and tuna.
Pemba diving offers exciting dive sites on one of the healthiest coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. Visibility is amazing here, ranging between 20 and 40 meters. The west side of the island has more protected dive sites, whereas the east side of Pemba is deeper and subject to strong currents. The Njao islands, west of Pemba, offer vibrant marine life and incredible coral walls. The east and south side Pemba dives are for experienced divers only. Sites like Mtangani are often visited by pelagic fish and large marine life like hammerhead sharks, but are deep and can have ripping currents.
Mafia Island, Tanzania’s longest history of marine protection and dive sites teems with marine life. Most of the dive sites are situated in Chole Bay, like Kinasi Wall, and Milimani Reef. Outside of the bay, Jina Pass and Dindini Wall are great dives. Mafia island dive sites are full of marine life, including grouper, snappers, Southern stingrays, green turtles, tuna and more.
Getting to Zanzibar is easy by plane from Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi or Mombasa. Boats run frequently from Dar Es Salaam, and travelers can choose a regular boat or fast catamaran. With locations in Stone Town and several resorts around the island, One Ocean is a highly regarded dive center for all Zanzibar diving needs, and one of the few dive centers that offers dives around Stone Town. Zanzibar Dive Adventures, as part of Zanzibar water sports, is a 5 star PADI instructor development dive resort. They have centers in three hotels in the north of Zanzibar and offer excellent dive courses as well as fun dives at the best of Zanzibar dive sites.
Whilst the cheapest way to get to Pemba Island is by boat, the more comfortable way is to fly to Pemba’s small airport with Zanair or Coastal Airlines from Dar Es Salaam, Arusha, or Tanga. A boat from Stone Town in Zanzibar leaves to Pemba twice a week and takes 8 hours to arrive there. Swahili Divers is Pemba’s most experienced dive center. Located in the comfortable but simple Kervan Saray Beach resort, Swahili Divers will do everything they can to make every stay a memorable one. The Manta Resort, where Dive 360 Pemba dive center is located, offers an all-inclusive formula with only diving and other excursions added separate. With an excellent trainings pool and professional dive staff, this is the right place to start an exclusive Pemba dive holiday.
It’s easy to get to Mafia Island by air from Dar Es Salaam of Zanzibar with Precision Air, Zanair, Coastal Aviation or Tropical Air. Again, there are boat options, but they are not recommended. Mafia island has more or less three options for stay: Kinasi, Mafia Island Lodge or Pole Pole. All are located at Chole Bay and within close reach of dive shops. Sea Point and Big Blu are two well-established dive centers that cater to all Mafia Island diving needs.
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